'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande' tackles pleasure
By Martha K. Baker
Nancy Stokes, 55, was a teacher married to a boring man, now dead. Her son is also boring, and her daughter is too wild for her mother's taste. Nancy arrives in her brown suit to a classy hotel room. She paces, tweaks the suit, and fiddles with her hair as she nervously anticipates an adventure. Nancy Stokes has hired a young man to introduce her to pleasure she's never known.
Except for the unwieldy title, this film satisfies on every level -- writing, acting, cinematography, subject matter. "Good Luck to You" addresses a little known concept in most movies, that is, the pleasure of a woman, and it does it with élan, humor, compassion, and understanding. It's hard to watch, not because it's about sex but because it's about honesty. For homework, however, look up the word "concupiscence."
The opening scene has Nancy nervous and the titular hero confident, smooth as honey, which is also the color of his flawless skin. He's good at what he does. When Nancy tries to mother him, he redirects her attention. When she puts on her mortarboard and tries to teach him, he hits her pause button. When she comes armed with a to-do list on their second meeting, he suggests they do what they can in the time allotted -- and always in a voice of experience and confidence.
Sophie Hyde's film is divided into four meetings. As in a good play, the third act upsets the balance, and the fourth smooths the end, but it's the denouement that caps the whole effort. Katy Brand's script waltzes between what Nancy and Leo bring to that hotel room. Leo's righteous irritation and a waitress' memory alter the story's predictable progress to a better end and layer the story effectively. Brand includes titbits of humor; for example, Nancy makes fun of Leo by calling him the Master of the Menopause, and he quickly shoots back, "I'll put that on my business cards." And they laugh. And so do we.
Isabelle Laughland adds flare to her part as the waitress. Daryl McCormack -- not just another pretty face -- plays Leo to perfection and gives him dimension. Maybe only Emma Thompson could have pulled off the role of Nancy Stokes. She brings her reputation as a classical actor, a comedian, a writer and director, a woman with integrity and gumption to the role. She plays this unique part with its political tones, and she does not shy from being her honest self.
"Good Luck to You, Leo Grand" is that rare film that marries goodness and mercy with womanly wit.